On the 50th anniversary of the day they met, former high court judge Michael Kirby will marry his longtime partner Johan van Vloten.
Kirby was an outspoken critic of last year’s postal survey, and was hesitant about whether he needed to wed van Vloten following the passage of legislation allowing same-sex marriage in Australia, The Guardian reported.
“The tasks remaining in Australia include strengthening the anti-discrimination laws, and responding to the demands of the so-called faith communities for exemption from anti-discrimination requirements.
“I think we’re going to see a lot of this in the coming months,” he presciently said.
He had previously said he would boycott the postal survey, but later changed his mind and voted Yes.
Kirby reportedly revealed he would marry van Vloten in a talk at Bond University last week, saying that they had to consider whether they even needed to marry after spending 49 years and eight months together.
“Because of the change in the Marriage Act 1961 Commonwealth – most unexpectedly – my partner Johan and I had to decide whether to get married.
“We were not all that enthusiastic. Not because we didn’t support the right of citizens to get married if they wished to, and not to be disqualified if they were LGBT,” he said.
Kirby said it “just seemed a little artificial” and “a little late for the confetti after so long together.
“And it also seemed to us a little bit patriarchal.”
Kirby was asked which moment of his life we would choose to relive, and replied to the student by describing the night he met van Vloten.
“I met my partner, Johan, in what was then one of the very few gay bars in Sydney – The Rex Hotel,” he said.
“I never went to hotels. I’m not a big drinker.
“But I was like Princess Mary. She went into the Slip Inn in Sydney and picked up the crown prince of Denmark.
“I went into my hotel and picked up my partner, Johan, and we’re still together. That was a very memorable encounter.”
“We’ve ultimately decided that we are going to get married,” Kirby said. “And we’re going to get married on the 50th anniversary of our meeting, which is the 11th of February, 2019.
Kirby said the couple will get married and home, but won’t refer to each other as ‘husband’.
“Many gay people call each other husband. Our relationship is not like husband and husband. Our relationship essentially is one of partner and partner or spouse and spouse,” he said.
“We are happy with spouse. We will use that. And then the following night we will go back, on the Tuesday, because we met on a Tuesday, we will go back to what is now the Rex bistro.
“The Rex hotel has been pulled down, it is now a bistro. We will go back and ask for a table. Is that weird? No, I think it’s a bit romantic.”
Kirby previously spoke to the Star Observer about coming out to his mother after van Vloten had spent years coming to Sunday night dinners with his family.
“I didn’t verbalise it with my mother until she was dying and I felt uncomfortable of severing that bind without having been totally honest to her,” Kirby recalled.
“So I told her, just before she died, and she looked at me and said, ‘Michael, I didn’t come down in the last shower’.
“‘You’ve been bringing Johan to Sunday dinner for the last 30 years, do you think I was blind?’”